Six-strong shortlist for International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Six-strong shortlist for International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Atef Abu Saif, Jana Elhassan, Lina Huyan Elhassan, Shukri al-Mabkhout, Ahmed al-Madeeni and Hammour Ziada are the six authors shortlisted for the 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

The shortlisted was revealed by a judging panel chaired by Palestinian poet and writer, Mourid Barghouti, at a press conference held at the Royal Mansour Hotel in Casablanca in partnership with the Moroccan Ministry of Culture and the Casablanca International Book Fair.

Palestinian author Saif makes the shortlist for A Suspended Life (Al-Ahlia), which the judges praised for “being able to undo fixed views by offering rich counter narratives, penetrating into the intricacies of social realities”. Lebanese author Jana Elhassan, who was shortlisted in 2013 for Me, She and the Other Women, makes this year’s shortlist for Floor 99 (Difaf Publications). The judges noted how that Elhassan “adopts a flowing, quiet narrative when rendering the intricacies of a violent history”.

Diamonds and Women (Dar al-Adab) by Syrian author Lina Huyan Elhassan made the shortlist for its “shrewd narration that blends disparate life stories into one account of intertwined destinies”, while debut Tunisian author al-Mabkhout’s The Italian (Dar Tanweer, Tunis) was commended for “the widening, panoramic view offered of a tumultuous period of history, through a gripping and inspiring story”.

Also shortlisted was Willow Alley (Al-Markez al-Thaqafi al-Arabi) by Moroccan author al-Madeeni. The judges liked “the ability of a narrator to effectively portray the cruelties a society can inflict on its dispossessed minority”. Completing the shortlist is Sudanese author Ziada’s The Longing of the Dervish (Dar al-Ain), which “delves into the complex and hidden recesses of a human soul which is grappling with the authority of the sacred, whether religious or secular”. The book has already been awarded the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in December 2014.

The novels selected were chosen from 180 entries from 15 countries, all published within the last 12 months.

Professor Yasir Suleiman, chair of the Board of Trustees, said: “The novels on this year’s shortlist feature a diverse range of characters and narratives stances and styles. They are all marked with subtlety of voice and force of vision. This list builds on the success of previous years in bringing quality Arabic fiction to wider audiences.”

In addition to Barghouti, this year’s previously anonymous judges are: Ayman A. El-Desouky, an Egyptian academic; Parween Habib, a Bahraini poet, critic, and media expert; Najim A. Kadhim, an Iraqi critic and academic; and Kaoru Yamamoto, a Japanese academic, translator and researcher.

The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is awarded for prose fiction in Arabic and each of the six shortlisted finalists receives $10,000, with a further $50,000 going to the winner.  It is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority in the UAE.

The winner of this year’s prize will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday 6th May, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.